Pre-Eclampsia: A Common Pregnancy Complication

What Is Pre-Eclampsia?

pregnancy complications

Pre-eclampsia is a common condition that develops in pregnant women. It typically occurs at least 20 weeks into the pregnancy and is characterized by high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. Severe cases can lead to breathing difficulties and liver damage. If left untreated, pre-eclampsia can have dire consequences for the mother and/or baby.

Causes

The exact cause of pre-eclampsia is unknown, but the following factors increase the likelihood of developing the condition:

  • Obesity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Improper functioning of the placenta
  • Kidney disorders
  • Genetic factors
  • Family history of pre-eclampsia
  • Immune function disorders
  • Insufficient blood flow to the placenta

Types

Eclampsia

Eclampsia is a sub-condition that can occur inĀ  pre-eclampsia if left untreated. Eclampsia causes pregnant women to have severe seizures, and can lead to coma or death in rare cases.

Symptoms

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Fluid retention
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Reduced urine output
  • Swelling in hands or feet
  • Changes in vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath

pregnancy issues

Diagnosis

If you are pregnant and suspect that you have symptoms of pre-eclampsia, you should seek immediate medical treatment. Your OBGYN or in some cases, an emergency room physician, can assess you for the symptoms of pre-eclampsia. Urinalysis can check the levels of protein in your urine to see if there is excess protein. A physical examination will reveal signs like swelling in the hands and feet. The most indicative sign is an extremely elevated blood pressure.

Treatment

There is no cure for pre-eclampsia, but medications can be used to safely manage the symptoms. Anti-hypertensives can reduce the high blood pressure and corticosteroids may be used to avoid liver damage. Anti-convulsants can control seizures in patients who develop eclampsia.

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